What if I . . .
We start to dream of something we might try, and then we pull back as the doubts and fears flood our minds. But as the experts say, “100% of the things you don’t try, won’t happen.”
To move forward, to achieve our dreams and goals, takes bravery. And I’m beginning to believe, based on evidence in my own life, that “brave” isn’t something we are or are not; it’s much more like weight lifting.
We start out with the mini barbells (the baby bells, you might say), and using them every day, find it gets easier. When it’s a breeze, we graduate up to more weight, and begin to practice at that level, always moving forward as the work gets easier. I now believe bravery is a similar skill that we build through practice, time and time again.
So here are 6 bravery exercises (and a bonus #7) to incorporate to make 2020 an incredible and fun year, one that you’ll end by saying, “I can’t believe I did that!”
1: Do something you’ve always wanted to do.
Maybe it’s to take an acting class or going up in a hot air balloon. Perhaps you’ve always wanted a college degree (or a PhD) and it’s time to put in that application or talk to that advisor.
For me in 2020, it’s getting a Christmas short story I wrote 25 or more years ago published as a picture book. The illustrations for The 29¢ Baby Jesus are almost completed by the artist I hired last year, and layout design will start in a few weeks. I am so excited (and so scared) to get this out in the world.
2: Make contact with someone you’ve always wanted to meet.
Who is your dream lunch date? What actor or writer or athlete or musician or whatever have you always wanted to meet and have a real conversation with? I’ve met some of my favs at events where they spoke and I stood in line for an autograph or a handshake, a few words of adoration on my part. But that’s not the same as a sit-down.
Think of someone you would love some time with and just start asking. Search for contact info to anyone connected. Be respectful; be clear about why you are asking. Don’t be a rabid stalker, but keep asking. Be willing to meet on their schedule. Don’t ask for anything, even a photo, unless they offer it.
It may never happen. But you won’t know until you ask.
So who am I looking to meet in 2020? Good question. I have only just begun to think on this. Writer Ann Lamott would be a front-runner (but my doubts of it happening are already kicking in). She’s a fun, irreverent, thought-provoking writer and her faith challenges my own.
Bob Goff is another writer and Christian whose works speak to me, make me laugh and encourage me. (I have the selfie here from a conference, but I want the lunch or breakfast to have time to simply talk about loving people always.) This is especially true as I use his book Live in Grace, Walk in Love each day in 2020.
Of course if Colin Firth or Emma Thompson or Maggie Smith or . . . ever wanted to meet up, I’d totally be into that!
3: Offer your own skill or expertise to others for money.
I’m a writer. And a pretty good one based on the clients who continue to hire me. But sometimes I’m way too scared to put the word out in my networking groups or on social media.
This January I decided to create an intro offer for people who have a small business, offering to write the “About Me” page of their website or Facebook page for a special price of $99. I was actually going to offer it in December, because that’s a slower work month for me, but I let fear hold me back. “What if NO ONE takes me up on it?! I’ll feel like such a failure.”
I pushed myself to put it out there in January. And several people have taken me up on it. (There is still room for a few more if you need this service.) I wouldn’t have gotten to work with some amazing people if I hadn’t asked.
What are your special skills? A craft you can teach others how to do or make for them? A knowledge you have that you can share with others via an webinar or event? A health or business or parenting habit or hack that has worked for you that you can guide others into implementing? Whatever it is, get it out there. Charge a little. If it sells out quickly, the next time you’ll charge more!
4: Reconnect with a friendship that’s fallen by the wayside.
It doesn’t matter if you and your friend simply drifted apart or if there was a disagreement of some kind, just reach out and have a conversation—in person. Apologies may be needed—do it! Friends are too valuable and life is too hard and too short to throw friendships away in anger or to let embarrassment at your neglect keep you from reaching back out. Maybe it will never be what it once was. But there’s only one way to find out.
5: Invest in a new way with a nonprofit or ministry.
I love to give, and giving money is the easy step for me. What’s not so easy is giving up my time. So this year, while I will still financially give, I’m going to see how I can invest in organizations I care about through acts of service. I am thinking it will start with an extra tutoring session a week at the elementary school where I already volunteer.
But maybe it’s the financial gift that’s hard for you. Pick a missionary or a nonprofit that you believe in and commit to a small monthly donation. Yes, it might stretch you. But I’ve found giving monthly via autodraft becomes comfortable quickly and allows the recipient to plan better. So many missionaries are low on support; consider being even a drop in the bucket of encouragement for them. And if, like us, you’ve done automatic giving for enough time for it to become comfortable, it might be time to “up the weight” and bravely stretch yourself anew.
6: Put a big, audacious goal out there for others to see.
Fear often keeps us from sharing our goals with others. “They’ll think I’m so foolish to believe I can do that.” But goals expressed in community are more likely to be completed. Maybe it’s because we don’t want to look foolish, so we work harder at it. Maybe it’s because others reach out to encourage us (it’s why support groups are so effective.)
Choose to be brave. Let your people, whomever they may be, know what your goal is.
Here’s one of mine. Gulp. I want to sell 500 copies of The 29¢ Baby Jesus by the end of 2020.
As soon as I said it, I started to pull back. How could I possibly? I’m not even planning a first printing of half that many. If I sell them online I have to handle shipping the books. Who do I think I am or that the book is that so many people would want to buy it?
Doesn’t matter. Taking the plunge and putting it out here anyway. I know it will force me to work so much harder on the marketing aspect of my book. And I’m excited about the story, so I want others to be excited too.
Bonus #7: Spend time sitting quietly in prayer and hear what God tells you. Then do it!
A Bob Goff-ism I read in Live in Grace, Walk in Love this morning says,
“Are you willing to risk failure, hoping you might be surprised by success?”
Imagine getting to the end of the year and telling your friends, “You won’t believe what happened this year!” Go for it.
So how will you be brave in 2020? (Feel free to tell us here!)